People 15 March 2018
For Pat Bransford, MBA and CEO of Urban Tech, it would be impossible to say that her race and gender have not been a huge part of shaping her life, not to mention her expectations. She explains, “Both race and gender have differentiated me as a gifted person with responsibilities to give back to society.
I have not seen either as an impediment but rather as a reason to give back. I integrated Catholic schools in Washington, DC at the age of eight and continued to live a multiracial life being one of the first black persons to integrate Catholic University in 1957 and one of the first black persons to be hired by IBM in 1963. I saw these experiences as opportunities to carry on a tradition. In 1965, I married my white husband whom I met at IBM, and I am the proud mother of three biracial kids."
Pat Bransford and daughter. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Tunstull
So, what is Urban Tech? Well, Bransford explains, for more than twenty years, the non-profit she founded has created intensive education curriculums that “empowers young people in urban communities with self-awareness and education on core life skills." It focuses on “empowerment through life skills and creating safer schools where students communicate with enlightenment and respect for each other and themselves" whose mission states that “with the proper educational tools provided to all children, there is no limit to learning and no obstacle that can't be overcome in pursuing dreams." It has served over a million children across forty states, and its programs have been in more than 700 schools and community-based organizations.
Pat Bransford was born in North Carolina, where her father was a dentist and a civic leader in the town and her mother home-schooled when she was young. When Bransford was seven, they moved to Washington, DC, where her mother grew up, because her mother did not feel comfortable in the deep south.
She holds a Bachelors in Mathematics from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and a Master's Degree from New York University's Stern School of Business. She's the Founder and President of The National Urban Technology Center and the author of Urban Tech's online youth development and leadership initiative, Youth Leadership Academy, “transforming the conventional classroom into a multi-disciplinary, interactive learning environment." She's also the chief architect of the Community technology center movement, “resulting in a turn-key process for building state-of-the-art computer training centers throughout the United States.
How does a kid from North Carolina end up with such enviable credentials and changing the future via tech? Right from the get-go, Bransford has always been about problem-solving. As a kid, Bransford loved living in North Carolina. “We lived on a farm and I got a chance to grow vegetables and nurture animals. Growing up, I had a few good friends who also enjoyed solving problems."
She says she was naturally drawn to technology “as a way to get information needed to make decisions quickly" because her mother was a math teacher who often employed the use of word problems as a way of engaging her in learning.
Solving important math problems and pleasing her mother were the only things Bransford knew for sure she wanted to do when she grew up. She certainly has succeeded on both counts. Her first job out of college was as a math teacher. “I loved engaging youth to be creative and build problem-solving skills." Following two years of teaching, she joined IBM and focused on the power of computers to improve corporate profitability.
Pat Bransford, Sharon Brown, Debra Chase Martin and Alicia Blythewood. Photo Courtesy of The Black Socialite
“I am now focused on using the brain to solve societal issues leading to bullying and discrimination and at-risk behavior leading to disease. I would also like to find a way to counteract the addictive behavior created by iPhones and social media - behavior that is severely impacting the development of today's children."
Which brings us to the story of Bransford's brainchild, Urban Tech. She explains how this incredible company came to be. “Out of graduate school in 1994, I set out to open computer training centers all over the country to close the digital divide. My IBM training helped me to scale quickly and within 5 years I had opened 750 centers in all 50 states and trained 2 million in low-income communities with funding from the Department of Justice, Weed, and Seed. Each center had state of the art computers, high-speed Internet connections and skilled instructors trained by Urban Tech."
The work that Urban Tech does is vital both now and moving into the future because they “are now using technology to build an e-learning platform that has the capacity to distribute Urban Tech's curriculum to classrooms all over America, in order to create a kinder society and to train the new leaders of tomorrow for promoting safe and supporting schools. We believe that these solutions will be delivered to classrooms and mobile devices for 24/7 access." Bransford says it “gives me great pleasure that I have accomplished something critical to life on this planet."In addition to all of the other work she has done and continues to do, Patricia Bransford and her daughter have also created a new bullying prevention and safety course called, “Dignity for All." The program is interactive, has digital and off-line components, provides students with workbooks and uses storytelling, role-playing, and popular culture to inspire collaborative discussions, critical reflection, and goal setting. Dignity for All helps kids to feel safe and supported in school as well as, offline.
In terms of what challenges she's faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry, Bransford says simply, “I am sure there are many but I have focused more on goals than on barriers. [Since] I integrated Catholic schools in Washington DC in 1948, everything else seems easy."
Despite everything going on in the world today, she is hopeful for our world when it comes to issues of diversity. “I believe that as each and every individual experience. Different races, religions, nationalities and sexual preferences in schools and the workplace, attitudes have changed and erased discrimination and prejudice. Housing has lagged and unfortunately has separated classes of people, but as cities emerge as engines of growth, I expect continued integration at a community/city level and the elimination of more barriers."
As for the future, Bransford says she is “eager to distribute Urban Tech's new Dignity for All curriculum that educates teachers, parents, and kids on how to prevent bullying, discrimination and other aggressive acts in schools. We'd like to see every teacher in America is trained in social and emotional learning to support safe and supportive schools."
Bransford has one vital piece of advice for women of color when it comes to turning their dreams into their realities.
“Wear this racial ethnicity as a badge of honor with a mission to make the world a better place to live."
5 Min Read
Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.
At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.
But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?
Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.
But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).
Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."
As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.
- Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
- Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
- Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
- Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Yeah... That's not a winning formula for me, Mike.
Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?
Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.
Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.
This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.
"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit
Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.
Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.
She was, and still is being, silenced.
After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."
Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."
Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.
Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.